What is a poll watcher?

Gallup stops daily presidential approval polling
Posted at 3:53 PM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 17:55:44-04

When it comes to being at the polls and poll watching on Election Day, it's not something just anyone can do.

Poll watchers are not new to Election Day, but with concerns over this year's election integrity, more people may be interested this year than ever before, but they must still follow the process.

"I think there's a little confusion right now on whether there's encouragement for people to try to register to be poll watchers or whether just to show up at the polls," Boise State Assistant Professor of Political Science, Jaclyn Kettler says. "There may also be frustration if someone believes they can just show up to a precinct and just watch over what's happening."

To be a poll watcher, a candidate or political party must submit a recommendation in writing 12 days ahead of the election to their County Clerk's office.

"It is not something that just the average voter or average person can take upon themselves. There actually is a statutory process to become a poll watcher. It does have to come from the political parties or the candidates, and it can only be one watcher per candidate or per party," Ada County, Phil McGrane says.

The role of the poll watcher is to only watch. They cannot interfere or make any recommendations to voters.

"It is merely to observe the process and to make sure that everything is being done properly and or to track who is voting," McGrane says.

According to McGrane, in the past, Ada County has only seen one or two poll watchers per location.

"Theoretically, every candidate has the opportunity to make that request if they chose to. What we typically see is candidates are trying to get out the vote and get people to vote for them, not just stand and observe the process," McGrane says.

As Idaho News 6 reported recently, if someone unofficially tries to be a poll-watcher, they could be committing a felony charge by intimidating voters at the polls.